One of my favorite Christmas Scripture texts is in Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son…to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” These verses, and the verses around them, are rich and deep in meaning. They are also not commonly used during the Christmas season. But the theme of Christmas is very plainly stated in the beautiful words “God sent forth his Son…”
One Christmas Eve, I preached on that text. As part of that sermon, I brought up the fact that Paul was speaking against those who “observe days and months and seasons and years” (Galatians 4:10). He was speaking against those who think Christianity is simply about showing up to the temple, or the church, on certain special occasions. I equated that to people today who think they only need to come to church on Christmas and Easter. What my brain didn’t connect as I wrote that sermon was that I was going to be preaching those words to those very people on that Christmas Eve! To this day, I’m not sure if it was the right thing to do or not, but it did create a “mini-stir” in some families. Perhaps that’s precisely why it was okay to do, and I pray that God used it to further His kingdom and convict people of sin and bring them to faith, faith that trusts not in seasons or special times of the year, but faith that trusts in the redemption and adoption that Jesus purchased for us on the cross.
As you know, we are coming into another Christmas season. Studies have shown that non-Christians are more likely to come to church on Christmas Eve than any other day of the year. In other words, whether you’re a Christian or not, and no matter how many times you attend church in a given year, the one day that the most people have church on their mind is Christmas Eve. What can get lost in all the shopping and parties and family traditions of the season is that Christmas brings the greatest occasion of the year to share the Gospel with people who don’t usually take time for it. What an opportunity! Instead of being frustrated with those who only walk through our doors a few times a year, it’s healthy to see something like a Christmas Eve service as a wonderful chance for them to hear His life-giving Good News message of great joy!
This year, our congregation is trying something different. We are planning to host two Christmas Eve services. Historically, St. Paul’s has been unique in that our Christmas Eve attendance is usually lower that our regular Sunday attendance. So this decision was not made based on need; rather, it was made in order to provide an opportunity to serve more people on this very important holiday! Having an option will provide families within our congregation and outside our congregation to choose the service time that works best for their family schedule.
Many of you already have long-standing traditions to leave town to be with family for Christmas. Go with God’s blessing! For those of you who plan to be in the area on Christmas Eve, I encourage you to make it a priority to attend one of our services that day, even if it means changing around your traditional schedule. And use this as an opportunity to invite your neighbors and other family members and friends who don’t normally attend. It’s the day of the year when they are more than likely thinking about it anyway! And pray that God would use the celebration of the birth of His Son to bring many more to faith in Him.
Our services will be at 4:30PM and 8:30PM. Both services will be filled with song and Scripture and a traditional candlelight time. Please pray for these services. If you’re interested in participating in one of them as a musician or reader, please let me know! And wherever you spend your Christmas holiday, I pray it is filled first and foremost with the love and joy and peace that comes with the redemption your Savior brings.